THE COMMAND AND GENERAL STAFF COLLEGE
CGSC Form 13 — 11 Dec 72
USACGSC— 3P3-1783— 12M— 22 Dec 72
Department of Military Art and Engineering
united states military academy
west point, new york
B 8 my 1949
This account of the campaign in Poland has been written for use
in the instruction of cadets at the United States Military Academy.
It is based for the most part on material prepared by the Military
Intelligence Service, War Department. However, while acknowl-
edging the great indebtedness to the M. I. S., it is not desired to
place on it the responsibility for any factual errors, or for any
U.B.M.A. PRINTING □ FFI C E-B-30-4 5-2 SOO
THE CAMPAIGN IN POLAND, 1939 C
Most military men emerged from the First World War with a
belief in the impossibility of a future European war of maneuver.
They thought the theater too limited and the defensive too strong
to permit new wars to be other than tests of endurance. Most
Continental nations, accepting their soldiers' new doctrine and being
satisfied with the Versailles boundaries, devoted their military en-
ergies to constructing defensive lines instead of developing new
offensive weapons and tactics.
Only Germany failed to adopt these new beliefs. Refusing to
accept a doctrine that gave no possibility of regaining her lost
provinces, she continued to cling to the teachings of Clausewitz, who
had written :
If the defensive is the stronger form of conducting war, but
has a negative object, it follows of itself that we must only
make use of it so long as our weakness compels us to do so, and
we must give up that form as soon as we feel strong enough to
aim at a positive object A war in which victories are merely
used to ward off blows, and where there is no attempt to return
the blow would be . . . absurd.
Let us not hear of generals who would conquer without blood-
shed. If a bloody slaughter is a horrible sight, then that is ground
for paying more respect to war, but not for making the sword
we wear blunter and blunter by degrees . . ., until someone steps
in with a sword that is sharp and lops off the arm of our body.
Basically, Germany's superiority has been due less to German
development of the two modern weapons, the airplane and tank,
than to the strategic doctrine which limited Allied production. The
Allies might have outdistanced Germany had their plans contem-
plated offensive action. All too soon, the Allied plan of a "bloodless
war" was shattered by that one nation which clung to the age-old
principle of the attack. Too late, the victim nations realized that,
through neglect of the possibility of maneuver, they had failed to keep
pace in the production of the most vital war equipment. Through
subscription to a false doctrine, they had allowed their "sword" to
become "blunter and blunter by degrees" until Germany could step
in with a sharper weapon.
Poland, with the fifth largest army in Europe, was the first nation
to feel the attack of the rejuvenated Nazi war machine. Because of
iater German conquests, the world has largely forgotten this initial
success. Yet in one respect the rapid annihilation of the Polish
Army was Germany's most important conquest. This campaign
demonstrated to Germany, if not to the rest of the world, the cor-
rectness of her military doctrine. It furnished the proving ground
for her organization and weapons.
The rapidity of Poland's complete destruction came as a shocking
surprise to the world at large. Eight days after the beginning of
the war, all Polish forces were in demoralized retreat ; and a month
later, the entire fighting force of a million men had been annihilated.
Military history offers no prior example of a conquest so rapid and
complete. In this victory the new German air and mechanized forces
played an unprecedented part. Nevertheless, it would be wrong to
say that German success was due to these two arms alone. Simply
stated, Germany's stupendous conquest may be attributed to the
superiority of the entire German Army over the outmoded Polish
war machine. Germany's balanced, well-trained, and ably led forces
found no match in those of her smaller rival.
COMPARATIVE FIGHTING STRENGTHS
Potentially, Poland as a nation could never be a match for the
newly armed Nazi might, backed by the tremendous German industry,
rich resources, and plentiful reserves. Poland's near bankruptcy
and industrial backwardness would always hamper greatly any mod-
ern armament program. She possessed a fairly large iron and steel
industry, an oil output of one eighth her peacetime needs, and a
newly created, but small, airplane industry. In all other production
necessary for a modern war, including the manufacture of auto-
mobiles and trucks, she was totally lacking. With agricultural pro-
duce her only exportable surplus, her international credit was low.
Thus, lack of home production caused her to maintain equipment
long considered obsolete by most major powers, while limited pur-
chasing power compelled her to accept any foreign equipment she
could buy. Further, the poor Polish road net, the famous Polish
mud, and the local abundance of good horseflesh caused her military
leaders to overemphasize the importance of horse cavalry and trans-
port. The result was such that the outbreak of war found Poland
in possession of an army patterned closely after those of the First
With Hitler's ascent to power in 1933, Germany had inaugu-
rated a program designed to train and arm a fighting force second
to none. In 1935, she had resumed universal training. By the sum-
mer of 1939, she had succeeded in training 2,500,000 of her 86,000,000
population, and had available equipment reserves for more than
twice that number. Approximately 900,000 of those trained were
members of the active Army, 200,000 were in the active Air Force,
while 1,400,000 had completed their two years of service and had
been released to the reserve. In addition, Germany had within her
borders 1,700,000 men who had seen active service in the First World
War. The members of this latter group, though relatively un-
familiar with the technique of modern weapons, were capable of
rapid and easy conversion to first-line troops.
Germany's peacetime Army consisted of 35 horse-transport in-
fantry divisions, 3 mountain divisions, 4 motorized divisions, 5 heavy
mechanized (panzer) divisions, and 4 light mechanized divisions.
These were grouped into 18 corps and 6 armies. " On 1 September,
Germany had 90 peacetime and reserve divisions ready for active
operations. Sixty of these had been concentrated for the Polish
campaign. The mobilization of some 50 to 60 additional divisions
was either in process or was begun immediately. It appears that
none of these were considered fully fit for field operations during the
first month of the war.
The basic fighting unit of the German Army was the more numer-
ous horse-transport infantry division. This division was triangular
in form — three infantry regiments of three battalions each — and
had -& strength of 15,261 officers and men. The fire power of the
division was tremendous. It contained 342 light and 100 heavy
air-cooled machine guns, 81 light infantry mortars (50-mm.), 54
heavy infantry mortars (81-mm.), 72 antitank guns (37-mm.), 18
infantry howitzers (75-mm.), and 6 infantry howitzers (150-fflm.).
Of these weapons, 12 of the antitank guns, 27 of the light and 12 of
the heavy mortars, 6 of the 75-mm. howitzers, and 2 of the 150-mm.
howitzers were organically assigned to each regiment.
Artillery support for the division was provided by three battalions
of light and one battalion of medium artillery. All light-artillery
battalions were composed of twelve 105-mm. howitzers, while the
medium battalion contained two batteries (8 pieces) of 150-mm. how-
itzers and one battery (4 pieces) of 105-mm. guns.
Germany had about 6,000 tanks. Three quarters of these were
organized into panzer and light mechanized divisions. The re-
mainder were formed into a number of GHQ tank regiments, to be
used for close infantry support. The panzer division, with its
strength of about 14,000 men and 3,000 vehicles, was organized into
three echelons : a reconnaissance force, a shock force, and a ground-
holding element. The reconnaissance echelon contained a motorized
reconnaissance battalion of 50 armored cars, a motorcycle infantry
company, and certain supporting weapons. The second echelon
consisted of 450 tanks organized into two tank regiments, each of
which contained both light and medium tanks. The ground-holding
echelon contained one motorized infantry brigade of two regiments,
an artillery regiment, and certain engineer, antitank, and signal
The German motorized division was identical with the horse-trans-
port infantry division, except that motor transport was furnished
for all men and equipment and a mechanized reconnaissance battalion
Was added. The infantry themselves were transported in four-
wheel-drive light trucks. The heavy infantry weapons — heavy
machine guns, mortars, infantry howitzers, and antitank guns — were
transported in or behind one-ton half-track trucks. These vehicles,
with their low silhouette, excellent road speed, and cross-country
mobility, gave considerable tactical mobility to the unit.
A difference between the German Army of 1939 and that of 1914
was the function and quantity of horse cavalry. At the outbreak
of war in 1939 Germany had only one two-regiment brigade of liorse
cavalry, located in East Prussia. This was later expanded into a
cavalry division. There were approximately fifteen independent cav-
alry regiments, located in Germany proper and trained as reconnais-
sance units. Each independent regiment was organized so that upon
mobilization it could be split up into reconnaissance detachments or
troops of 300 men each for the infantry divisions. In addition, each
infantry regiment was given a mounted reconnaissance platoon.*
By the summer of 1939, Germany had achieved her dream of an
Air Force second to none. Through the means of flying and soaring
clubs, as well as more formal civil and military training, she had
built up a reserve pilot strength of approximately 100,000. Her
potential production was estimated as high as 2,000 airplanes per
* For corps and armies, the reconnaissance units were motorized. The same
was, of course, true for the reconnaissance units of motorized divisions.
A report dated 22 September, 1941, states that the cavalry division was
being converted into a motorized division, and that the only mounted
units then in the German Army were the platoons assigned to infantry
regiments. Apparently the mounted detachments assigned to divisions
had been abolished. A later report, dated November 22, 1941, states
that the conversion of the cavalry division to a motorized division was
postponed and that the division operated as horse cavalry on the Russian
Front as late as October, 1941.
month. She possessed a fighting force of 7,000 first-line planes,
organized into four air fleets. In addition, she had available para-
chute and air infantry, whose use she postponed till a later campaign.
Poland, with her population of 34,000,000, had an active Army of
266,000 and partially trained reserves of nearly 3,000,000. Owing to
prior mobilization, 600,000 were ready and available on M day, while
an additional 400,000 were mobilized before the campaign ended.
Howing, owing to the rapid German advance and the immediate de-
struction of Polish railroads, most of the latter took little part in the
combat. Except for an estimated two divisions, they were thrown
into battle by regiment or smaller unit when the situation became
The 600,000 men already mobilized were organized into 30 infantry
divisions, 12 independent cavalry brigades, and certain army, corps,
and special troops. The Polish infantry division, though nearly
equal to the German in man power, was woefully weak in sup-
porting weapons. Its light and medium artillery consisted of a
heterogeneous lot of 75-mm. and 105-mm. pieces. Although 45 light
antitank guns were authorized for each division, only about half
were on hand on 1 September. Only 200 light and 200 heavy anti-
aircraft guns were available to the entire Army.
Poland's Air Force, a part of the Army, contained 900 first-line
planes and about 600 in second line. All were of a design greatly
inferior to those of her opponent. Her mechanized strength con-
sisted of 600 well-designed light tanks, organized into one tank
brigade and several independent regiments.
Man for man, the Polish soldier has always been an able opponent
of any foe he has met. On many fields and under many flags, his
ancestors have demonstrated their bravery and endurance. In 1939,
the average Polish soldier was fairly well trained, could march long
distances, and was possessed of a high morale. Company officers
had reached a high degree of efficiency and were uniformly well
considered. Above the company, however, the Polish command was
questionable. Limited schooling, lack of large-scale maneuvers,
political influence upon promotion, and an outmoded strategic doc-
trine, all combined to make the higher officers compare unfavorably
with the Germans of like grade.
Very little has yet been published on the detailed Polish command
and staff organization. It is known, however, that no group* com-
* The Poles called their field armies "groups".
manders existed in peacetime, and that upon mobilization the Polish
chain of command included no link between the group and the divi-
sion. Smigly-Ritz, the commander in chief, was a virtual dictator,
controlling the country's political as well as military affairs. Since
successful operation in wartime necessitated extreme decentraliza-
tion of command, able staffs and group commanders familiar with
their duties should have been available to absorb some of the many
duties which otherwise would fall upon GHQ. The results of the
war indicate that such was probably not the case.
Since 1933, Hitler and his subordinates had done all in their power
to improve the stamina, training, and morale of the manhood of
Germany. Youth organizations, mass civilian drills, group calis-
thenics, and organized athletics raised the physical endurance of the
nation as a whole. The work battalions and universal military
conscription furthered this physical development and added dis-
cipline and military training. Service with the armed forces, even
in peacetime, became a serious business. Military housekeeping
and administration by the troops themselves was cut to a minimum.
The training program provided for ten hours of drill and instruction
for six days a week. There were frequent forced marches and
extended maneuvers under simulated war conditons. The German
trained reserves and the men of the active Army and Air Force were
without peers in the military world of 1939.
The officer corps of the German Regular Army has long been
recognized as the greatest stabilizing influence in the German nation.
To be a member of that class has always beeii considered a high
honor. This corps, while small between 1918 and 1932, maintained
its traditions of efficiency and devotion to duty. Only men of good
family, long military experience, and demonstrated ability could hope
to receive important command or staff assignments. The high
command had repeatedly been given the opportunity to handle forces
as large as 100,000 in the annual fall maneuvers. In addition, much
valuable command and staff experience had been gained when Austria
and Czecho-Slovakia were overrun. That the German commanders
in the higher grades proved their worth when real war began is
shown by the fact that two years later those who had been the senior
commanders in the Polish campaign still held the key positions.
At the beginning of the invasion of Poland there was doubt in the
minds of many regarding- the efficiency of the junior leaders, most
of whom were reserve officers. However, they proved to be quite
In the following table are listed the principal commanders during
the Polish campaign:
COMMANDER IN CHIEF HITLER
Chief of Staff Keitel
ARMY Von Brauchitsch
Chief of Staff . Haider
Southern Group of Armies Von Rundstedt
Eighth Army Von Blaskowitz
Tenth Army Von Reichenau
Fourteenth Army List
Northern Group of Armies Von Bock
Third Army Von Kuechler
Fourth Army Von Kluge
AIR FORCE .Goering
Air Fleet One Kesselring
Air Fleet Four Loehr
Naval Units in Polish Campaign Albrecht
That these men, without exception, measured up to their tasks,
speaks volumes for the German system of training and selection.
One advantage that a number of them had was their Ttnowledge of
the Polish theater. Von Brauchitsch had been the commander in
East Prussia in 1936, with von Kluge as his chief of staff. Von
Kuechler was in command there at the outbreak of war. Von
Rundstedt arrived on the Polish border some months before Ger-
many attacked. Von Reichenau had once been in command of the
Two features of German military organization are of particular
interest. First, the German military machine consists of three
separate arms : the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force. To gain
proper coordination, Hitler's chief of staff, Keitel, controlled all
three. To insure cooperation on the Eastern Front, von Brauchitsch
commanded all elements of the Navy and Air Force that were used
against Poland. Second, the seaeoast defenses are under the Navy,
while the antiaircraft artillery is controlled by the Air Force.
Poland might have increased the fighting power of her inferior
Army through the construction of a detailed system of permanent
fortifications, had it not been for Hitler's able political strategy. In
1934, Poland and Germany signed a non-aggression pact. Because of
this and her limited resources, Poland for the next five years devoted
her means to the construction of a fortified line on her Russian border
(Map 1) . In April of 1939, when war became imminent, she trans-
ferred her energies to the vital Narew, Vistula, Warta, and Upper
Silesian lines, but Hitler did not wait for these fortifications to be
completed. Germany, having misdirected her future enemy, pro-
ceeded to build a fortified zone near Frankfurt, for the protection of
Berlin, a "pillbox" line on the East Prussian frontier, and the power-
ful West Wall, which effectively guarded her western frontier.
On 1 September, 1939, when Hitler released his forces against
Poland, he was following a basic strategic principle of von Schlieffen
— for Germany to eliminate quickly and completely one hostile front
so that she might turn with her full strength against her other en-
emies. The Allied Powers had been seriously frightened by Munich,
and England was beginning to rearm. A dangerous military
Union of England, France, Yugoslavia, Rumania, and Poland was
threatening to develop. It was time for Hitler to seize the initiative
and gain the advantage of surprise. That he decided to attack
Poland instead of France in 1939 may be attributed to many factors,
some of which were :
1. A quick decision could be reached in Poland.
2. The West Wall could hold longer than the German forti-
fications in the East.
3. The Allies probably could not be ready to act before Poland
could be destroyed.
4. The Maginot Line might delay an offensive against France
long enough to allow the Poles to attack the German rear.
5. A quick victory in the East might have a tremendous effect
upon the future actions of Rumania, Yugoslavia, and
6. The elimination of Poland would allow an easy flow of
Russian goods to Germany.
Poland, as a theater of war, was admirably suited to the capabilities
of the modern Nazi war machine. A vast plain, 300 to 1,000 feet
above sea level, extends north to the Baltic from a line through Cra-
cow and Lwow. At only three points within this plain are there
elevations above 2,000 feet: the Lysa Gora Hills near Radom, an
uneven plateau between Czestochowa and Cracow, and a spur of
the Carpathians reaching north through Lwow to Lublin. On
the southern border is the only major terrain obstacle, the High
Tatra and Carpathian Mountains, rising to heights above 8,000 feet.
Cutting through these mountains from Slovakia are two major
passes, the Jablunka and Dukla, at 1,800 and 1,650 feet respectively,
and a third somewhat higher and narrower pass south of Nowy
During most of the months of the year the broad, gentle rivers of
Poland are formidable obstacles. In September and October, how-
ever, rains may or may not follow the long summer drought. In
1939, the autumn rains did not arrive until after the Germans had
completed their advance. The rivers, as a consequence, were ex-
tremely shallow, even the Vistula being fordable at many points
above Warsaw. The Polish mud, made famous by Napoleonic cam-
paigns and the First World War, failed to materialize. German
mechanized divisions, which might have been partially bogged down
for days, swept easily over the dry, level plains.
In general, the German plan (Map 2) was to be an application of
the principle of "Cannae," as expounded by von Schlieffen. Eighty
per cent of Germany's fully mobilized strength, to include all of the
motorized and mechanized divisions and two air fleets, was con-
centrated on the Polish border before the attack. A light center,
resting upon the fortifications of Frankfurt, was to defend in place ;
while two strong wings were to penetrate the dispersed enemy de-
fenses and envelop the Polish divisions. Further, and contingent
upon the success of the primary envelopment, a secondary envelop-
ment was to be inaugurated to trap any enemy units which might
escape the primary attack.
One glance at the map of Poland will show how admirably suited
was such a plan to the Polish terrain. Most of the country's heavy
industry was centered in an area between Teschen and the Wisloka
River. Lodz was Poland's greatest manufacturing city, and Gdynia
was her only outlet to the sea. West of the Vistula, Poland was
relatively wealthy ; but east of that river the land is poor and was
sparsely populated. To the German GHQ it appeared probable,
therefore, that the Poles would hold as long as possible a forward
position along their weak, six-hundred-mile western frontier. In
fact, the German high command had received information of a
Polish concentration plan which contemplated using all divisions
along the border. Nazi troops in East Prussia and German-held
Slovakia would be well on the flank of any such forward position.
Germany's detailed plan contemplated that the Tenth Army of
von Reichenau and the Third Army of von Kuechler would deliver
the main attacks of the primary envelopment, directing themselves
toward the area between Warsaw and Siedlce. On the north flank,
von Kluge was to push rapidly across the Corridor, protecting von
Kuechler's right. He was to make contact with von Kuechler near
Graudenz and was to reinforce the latter's army with some of the
elements of the Fourth Army. Blaskowitz and List were to push
forward to protect the flanks of the southern pincer. List, in ad-
dition, was to have the mission of enveloping, without destroying,
the industrial area of Teschen, Cracow, and Tarnow. To execute
this secondary mission, he was to direct a main effort from Marisch
Ostrau toward Cracow, to be met by successive drives from Slovakia
through the mountain passes near Neumarkt, Nowy Sacz, and
Sanok. Still further, he was to move as rapidly as possible to the
vicinity of Lwow and there block the retreat of the enemy into
The execution of the secondary double envelopment was to be
extremely flexible as to time, place, and forces engaged. Its scope
was to depend on Polish reaction to the primary envelopment. Units
were to be concentrated as rapidly as possible near Johannisburg
and Lwow for use in this later phase of the attack.
Many reasons have been advanced for Germany's having used two
separate envelopments instead of a single attack whose pincers
would join well to the east of Warsaw. Probably the principal con-
sideration was Germany's inability to concentrate sufficient forces
in East Prussia and Slovakia prior to the attack. Though some
reinforcements were brought into East Prussia before the outbreak
of hostilities, others had to be transferred across the Corridor as the
The detailed Polish plans have not as yet become known ; so their
exact nature is still the subject of much argument and doubt. From
the original dispositions, it appears that, desiring to hold as long as
possible her richer western terrain, Poland adopted a cordon defense
of her thousand-mile border. It is possible that she planned a delay-
ing action if pressure on her border position became too great, with
the intention of taking up a final position behind the strong Narew-
Bug- Vistula-San River line. There is also some evidence to indicate
that Polish cavalry planned a diversion from the Posen salient on
Polish plans for defense contemplated the formation of six groups
of divisions, each group being roughly the equivalent of a field army.
The 30 infantry divisions, 10 cavalry brigades, and one mechanized
brigade which were available at the outbreak of war were all assigned
to the six groups. Smigly-Ritz evidently planned to create his
general reserve from divisions not yet mobilized. When the German
Air Force disrupted the mobilization of these divisions, he was left
without a general reserve.
The initial dispositions of the six groups of the Polish Army are
shown on Map 2. Only two cavalry brigades were left along the
eastern frontier to observe the Russians.
Until the last moment the Poles expected aid from France and
England. They hoped for a determined diversion, such as the self-
crucifying attacks of Russia in the First World War. The Allies
were ill-prepared for such an effort ; and, except for the half-hearted
French advance into the Saar, no attempt was forthcoming.
The Break-Through, 1-5 September (Map 3). — At 5:00 A. M.,
1 September, 1939, the German armies struck.
In the south, the Fourteenth Army (List) aimed a double blow
at Cracow. One attack group struck east from Marisch Ostrau ; a
second moved northeast from the Zilina area via Neumarkt. By 5
September, these groups had broken the resistance opposed to them
and had made contact near Cracow, and on this same day a third
attack group from List's army advanced north from Zips on Nowy
Sacz. Their action, combined with a deep penetration by the
Tenth Army to the north of Katowice, rendered the important Upper
Silesian industrial area untenable, and its hurried evacuation by the
Polish troops precluded any effective destruction of its mines or
The strong Tenth Army (von Reichenau) consisted of at least two
corps composed of infantry divisions and of two mechanized corps,
the latter being the XVI of Lieutenant General Hoepner and the XV
of General Hoth. This army concentrated its forces along the
Silesian-Polish frontier between the towns of Kreuzberg and Tar-
nowice. One of the mechanized corps was on its left flank. Ad-
ditional active and reserve divisions were disposed in rear to give
depth to this the main-attack force of the German offensive.
The advance of the Tenth Army was opposed in its initial stages
by four Polish infantry divisions and one cavalry brigade.* These
troops were concentrated close to the frontier. Part were behind
the half -completed pillbox line of the Warta River ; part were in the
area west of Czestochowa. The remaining four divisions of the Polish
Silesian Group were far to the east and out of supporting distance.
* Another Polish division was on the frontier initially, but apparently retired
northeastward without opposing the advance of the Tenth Army.
Striking hard along its front, the Tenth Army quickly overran the
Warta line and captured the city of Czestochowa. The mechanized
corps on its north flank reached Radomsko, a town 50 miles from ,
the frontier, by 3 September. This advance outflanked the Polish
defenses to the south, along the Warta, which were being attacked
frontally by the infantry of the Tenth Army. Portions of the
mechanized corps struck south and enveloped this resistance. By
4 September, the Polish front opposite the Tenth Army was dis-
integrating. Three divisions retreated toward Tomaszow Maz, and
one toward Lodz. The remaining division of the frontier forces
was encircled and annihilated near Czestochowa.
The retreat of four of the Polish divisions to the northeast and
the annihilation of the division near Czestochowa created a gap in
the Polish front. Through this gap raced the two German mecha-
nized corps. By evening of 5 September, they reached the line
Piotrkow-Checiny, closely followed by the infantry moving by forced
The Polish Silesian Group had lost all cohesion. One division had
been destroyed. Four were withdrawing northeastward, while the
remaining four, initially in reserve, were withdrawing eastward
towards the security afforded by the Vistula River. The Tenth Ger-
man Army had won a' tactical success of the first magnitude and had
advanced 70 miles in five days.
The Eighth German Army (Blaskowitz) , much the weakest of the
southern group of armies, concentrated its forces in middle Silesia
between Trebnitz and Kreuzberg. Its mission was to protect the
north flank of the Tenth Army. Having disposed its divisions in
echelon to its left rear, to guard against a possible Polish thrust from
the direction of Posen and Kalisz, this army pushed aside the single
Polish division on its front and by evening of 5 September had
captured Zdunska Wola and had established bridgeheads to the east
of the Warta River from which its further advance toward Lodz
could be launched.
The Fourth Army (von Kluge) effected its concentrations prior
to 1 September in two groupings. The stronger, consisting of three
corps, was drawn up along the German frontier in the area around
Schneidemuhl and faced the broad base of the Corridor. A weaker
corps concentrated in the vicinity of Butow, opposite' the seacoast
section of the Corridor.
Von Kluge's mission was to reduce the Corridor in the shortest
possible time by an advance with the bulk of his army to the Vistula
River between Bromberg and Graudenz. He was then to effect a
crossing of that river on both sides of Chelmo and continue to advance
in the direction of Modlin and Warsaw.
The main effort of the Fourth Army was to be made by the II Corps
under General Strauss, consisting initially of three divisions in first
line and several more in reserve. Its south flank was secured by a
weak corps. On its north flank was a mixed corps of mechanized
and motorized divisions under General Guderian, the peacetime in-
spector of the German mechanized troops. This main effort was to
be supported by a supplementary attack by the XXI Corps of von
Kuechler's Third Army, which had been given the independent mis-
sion of attacking Graudenz. The combined attack was intended to
pinch off the Corridor and cut off all Polish troops that might remain
The attack of von Kluge's army proved extremely successful. By
4 September, the line of the Vistula and Netze Rivers between
Marienwerder and Naklo had been reached. This rapid advance,
which trapped some 25,000 Polish troops, had been materially aided
by the bold movements of General Guderian's mechanized corps
operating on the north flank. Here the 3d Panzer Division opened
up a five-mile gap in the Polish line and, without regard to the secur-
ity of its flanks, pushed speedily on to the Vistula River. ,
The advance of the German corps from Butow into the maritime
region of the Corridor encountered strong resistance from Polish
reserve and naval shore formations. The fighting in this area, al-
though not of any strategic importance, was of an extremely fierce
nature. It was not until 15 September that the Germans occupied
Gdynia, and the Hela peninsula held out until 1 October.
Following the crossing at Chelmo on the night of 4-5 September, the
Fourth Army pushed out strong bridgeheads and made contact with
the XXI Corps near Graudenz.
The Third Army (von Kuechler) concentrated its main forces
prior to 1 September in the area Osterode-Neidenburg-AHenstein,
preparatory to breaking through the Polish fortified lines on both
sides of Mlawa. It was then to push its advance southeastward over
the Narew and Bug Rivers to the area east of Warsaw. The occu-
pation of this area was the principal army objective.
As already noted, the XXI Corps of the Third Army was given the
mission of capturing Graudenz, thereby assisting von Kluge's army in
closing the Corridor. This task was completed on 5 September, and
contact was established south of the city with units of the Fourth
The main-attack force of von Kuechler's army, consisting of three
infantry divisions, one panzer division, and one cavalry brigade,
plus a number of reserve units, concentrated to the north of Mlawa.
During the 1st and 2d, this force met strong Polish resistance in its
efforts to capture the town. German tank attacks were repulsed.
During the night of 2-3 September, the main effort of the attack was
shifted to the east, and the motorized elements of the army moved
from the vicinity of Mlawa to Willenberg. This move caught the
Polish forces unawares, and by evening of 3 September the Third
Army had captured the important road junction of Przasnysz. This
advance caused the Polish forces defending Mlawa to withdraw
During the 4th and 5th, the German troops continued their advance
towards the Narew River, and by the evening of 5 September the left
wing of these forces had reached Rozan, while the right wing had
captured Ciechanow. The frontier line of Polish fortifications had
been pierced, and contact had been made with the main defensive
positions along the Narew River.
General von Brauchitsch, on 5 September, began a regrouping of
his northern forces. Strong reinforcements (23d Division and 3d
Panzer Division) were transferred to von Kuechler's Third Army
for its attack on Bialystok and Brest Litovsk, an operation from
which the German high command hoped for decisive strategic re-
sults. These divisions crossed the Corridor in trucks and on foot
during the 5th and 6th of September, and after reaching the East
Prussian railheads, entrained for new concentration areas in the
eastern part of East Prussia.
While the ground troops were gaining brilliant successes, the Ger-
man Air Force was playing a most important part. It opened its
attack at dawn on 1 September with a mass bombardment of the
ground installations of the Polish Air Force. During the next three
days every known Polish airdrome was repeatedly bombed. So
devastatingly efficient was this all-out air offensive that the Polish
Air Force ceased to exist before it had had an opportunity to func-
tion. As early as 3 September, the weight of the German air attack
was shifted to the railroad lines west of the Vistula, in order to pre-
vent the use of these lines for the regrouping and withdrawal of the
Polish forces, and by 5 September air attacks were being directed
against Polish troop columns. During this period, also, most of the
known Polish aircraft factories were destroyed, as well as the large
ammunition works at Sandomir.
The Exploitation, 6-8 September (Map 4). — We next turn to the
renewed operations of the ground and air forces for the period 6-8
September, during which the Germans exploited their successful
From the west and south of Cracow, General List's Fourteenth
Army moved rapidly northeast and east against the retreating Polish
Cracow and Przemysl Groups, which were striving to reach the San
River line without offering decisive battle to their pursuers. There
are indications that Polish GHQ at Warsaw, even this early in the
campaign, had lost touch with its southern groups, and that, in con-
sequence, the commanders of these groups were left to act on their
On 6 September, the Marisch Ostrau attack group captured Cra-
cow, the principal city of southern Poland. No opposition was
offered. The Zips attack group occupied Nowy Sacz and pushed on
toward the Wisloka River. On 8 September the Galician towns of
Tarnow and Gorlice were taken and a bridgehead seized at Debica
on the east bank of the Wisloka.
The Tenth Army, on the evening of 5 September, lay stretched out
on a broad front of some seventy miles from Piotrkow to Checiny.
A panzer corps under Hoepner was concentrated around Piotrkow,
while the other panzer corps of the army, under Hoth, stood on the
right flank observing the enemy divisions to the south around Cracow
and guarding against a hostile attack from that direction.
The Polish divisions of the Silesian Group, which had opposed
\Reichenau's initial assault, were on this day withdrawing northward
toward Lodz, while the four reserve divisions of that group, origi-
nally near Tomaszow Maz, were returning eastward towards the
Vistula with the intention of halting a German pursuit along the line
of the Lysa Gora Hills in front of Radom. This eccentric with-
drawal opened up a gap in front of Reichenau's left wing and center.
Between Piotrkow and Warsaw no Polish force of any strength op-
posed Reichenau's advance. The best paved road in all Poland
stretched between the two cities. At Piotrkow, Hoepner 's powerful
panzer corps stood ready. A situation had developed which per-
mitted mechanized troops, for the first time in history, to show their
Reichenau's advance on the 6th, 7th, and 8th assumed the character
of a headlong race. Hoepner's panzer corps reached Tomaszow Maz
on 6 September. From this city the advance continued toward
Warsaw. One mechanized column captured Rawa Mazowiecka on
the 7th, and reached the southwestern suburbs of Warsaw by the
evening of the following day. The right column of the panzer corps
took a more easterly route, via Gora Kalwaria and thence along the
west bank of the Vistula. This column also reached the outskirts
of Warsaw on the evening of the 8th. Neither column, however,
was sufficiently concentrated to undertake the occupation of the city,
although resistance at first appeared to be slight and unorganized.
Hoepner's corps had far outstripped the Tenth Army's infantry
divisions, which on this evening were reported to be some seventy
miles in rear of the mechanized units. Caution was called for.
Very strong and undefeated Polish forces were believed to be located
in and around Lodz, threatening the left flank and rear of the panzer
Hoepner's penetration had altered the strategic situation. • Strong
elements of the Thorn, Posen, and Silesian Groups lay to the west of
this German wedge. From this time on the further retreat of these
troops was to be a difficult operation. Poland's military situation
was desperate, and only a miracle could postpone the destruction of
While Reichenau's left wing was advancing on Warsaw, his center
and right continued to advance in the direction of the Lysa Gora
Hills and Radom. The important city of Kielce was taken on the
6th, and by the 7th the army was engaged in a frontal battle with the
3d and 12th Polish Divisions in and around Skarzysko Kamienna.
The 19th and 29th Divisions of this Polish group were on this day
withdrawing from Tomaszow Maz through Radom to the safety
offered by the Vistula River.
The withdrawal of the Polish Cracow Group from Cracow east-
ward had relieved General Hoth's panzer corps of the necessity
of further protecting Reichenau's right flank, which was no longer
in danger. Reichenau's mission was now to prevent the successful
withdrawal of the enemy's divisions at Radom and in the Lysa Gora
Hills. Hoth's panzer corps, concentrated to the southeast of Kielce,
was directed to advance along the west bank of the Vistula in the
general direction of Zwolen and to cut the lines of Polish retreat
between Radom and the river. The advance of the corps was ex-
tremely rapid. It captured both Zwolen and Radom during the
afternoon and evening of the 8th. This movement cut across the line
of retreat of four Polish divisions.
The advance of the Eighth Army (Blaskowitz) during this phase
of the operations continued in a northeasterly direction without
important incidents. On the 6th and 7th of September, advances of
normal depths were made from the Warta bridgeheads. On the 8th,
the army passed on both sides of Lodz, without, however, occupying
the city, and towards evening reached Ozorkow and Brzeziny.
During this advance the 30th Division marched echeloned to the
left flank of the Eighth Army, so as to prevent interference with the
army's movements by the strong Polish forces known to be located
in the province of Posen. It is noteworthy that, on the 8th, Blasko-
Witz was entirely unaware of the fact that a strong Polish force of
about five divisions, which had begun to withdraw from Kalisz,
Posen, and Thorn, was fast approaching the army's left flank. The
failure of the German intelligence service to function on this occasion
was to result in the grave crisis which befell the Eighth Army during
the succeeding week. It was momentarily to threaten the success
of the entire German plan of campaign.
The German Fourth Army, which had been weakened by the
transfer of some of its troops to the Third Army, continued its
advance on both sides of the Vistula River. By 8 September, the
III Corps, operating on the right of the army, had advanced close to
Honensalza, pushing on the heels of the Polish forces withdrawing
from Posen and Thorn on Warsaw. On this same day the II Corps,
moving along the east side of the Vistula, had captured Strasburg
and had crossed the Drewence River. Only weak detachments
barred the further advance of this corps on Modlin.
By the night of 5 September, the striking force of the Third Army
(von Kuechler) stood in two groupments, one at Ciechanow and the
other facing Rozan on the Narew River. Up to the 5th, the direction
of attack, of the army had been due south, towards Modlin and War-
saw. However, it had been the intention of the army commander
from the outset not to run f rontally against the fortifications protect-
ing the Polish capital on the north, but rather to drive southeastward
over the Narew and Bug Rivers toward Siedlce, a city fifty miles east
of Warsaw, the capture of which would result in isolating the Polish
capital. During 5 September, the troop movements necessary to
effect this change of front were in progress.
The Narew was crossed on 7 September at Pultusk and Rozan,
and on the 8th the German pursuit towards the Bug River, in the
direction of Wyzkow and Brok, was initiated. This forcing of the
Narew was an important success and profoundly influenced the en-
tire strategic situation. The line of the Narew was the only Polish
defensive position north of Warsaw, and on its retention depended
the ultimate fate of both the Polish capital and the whole Vistula
position. Once across the Narew, the road into the interior of Poland
was open to the Third Army. The crossing of the river started
the sequence of events which led to the surrender of Warsaw and
the Polish field forces..
While the Narew was being crossed, a new and strong concentra-
tion of the Third Army was being effected in the area Lyck-Johannis-
burg, preparatory to advancing in the directions of Bialystok and
Brest Litovsk. However, the movement of this force across the
frontier did not take place until 9 September.
During the period 6-8 September, the German Air Force continued
its operations against the Polish air fields and the communications
system of western Poland. Repeated heavy bombing attacks were
made against the railroads leading from Thorn, Posen, and Kalisz
toward the Polish capital. The object of these attacks was to retard
the regrouping of the Posen and Thorn troops, which were known
to be attempting to retire eastward.
On the 8th, the German Air Force struck a-telling blow by destroy-
ing the Vistula bridges near Deblin. This added further to the
difficulties of the four Polish divisions near Radom, whose retreat
to the Vistula was already menaced by General Hoth's panzer carps.
On 8 September, the main Polish forces west of Warsaw were in
a critical situation. With transportation and communication facil-
ities destroyed by the German Air Force, these confused and harassed
divisions were now at the mercy of their opponents, who proceeded to
close the already partially drawn net.
The Encirclement, 9-14 September (Map 5). — The operations of
the Fourteenth Army (List) during the period September 9-14 took
on the character of a pursuit. Nowhere did the Polish divisions of
the Cracow and Przemysl Groups seek to offer strong resistance.
By the evening of the 8th, the troops of the Fourteenth Army had
reached the general line Gorlice-Debica-Pinczow. In their front the
Polish units were seeking to withdraw to defensive positions behind
the San River. This withdrawal, which was not everywhere carried
out in an orderly manner, was made in two directions. The Cracow
Group adopted a northeasterly direction of retirement toward Chelm,
in order to defend the lower San and the Vistula from Zawichost to
Lezajsk ; the Przemysl Group, on the other hand, retired due east-
ward in the direction of Lwow, so as to bar the upper San River
to the German pursuers. The latter group now consisted of but two
The advance of the Fourteenth Army during this period was ex-
ceptionally rapid. It appears that the two mechanized divisions of
the army cut loose from the foot divisions and sought to take advan-
tage of their high speed to seize the San crossings before these could
be organized for defense.
On the 9th and 10th of September, the Fourteenth Army seized
crossings over the San at Radymno, Jaroslaw, and Sanok and during
the next three days pursued the retreating Polish forces with increas-
ing speed. On the 12th, the army's right wing reached Sambor and
sent forward towards Lwow a strong detachment of infantry in
requisitioned trucks. Mechanized units, coming from Przemysl,
reached the outskirts of Lwow on the same day. For the next few
days a series of confused battles occurred in the environs of thafrlarge
city. Thirty miles to the west, two Polish divisions seeking to retire
to the east were intercepted near Grodek and their retreat brought
to a standstill.
To the northwest of Lwow, mechanized units succeeded, on 13
September, in getting across the Lublin-Lemberg highway at Tomas-
zow and Rawa Ruska. The main elements of the Polish Cracow
Group were on this day in the vicinity of Bilgoraj, along the east
bank of the San, far in rear of these German mechanized forces.
The seizure of the San River line was an important strategic suc-
cess for the Germans. This was the last suitable defensive position
in southern Poland. Eastern Galicia now stood defenseless before
the German invader, and the retirement of the Polish forces in the
south to Rumania was no longer possible. Nothing remained for the
Cracow Group at Bilgoraj but to seek to continue its retreat to the
northeast, in the hope of finding temporary respite in the roadless
and resourceless Pripet Marshes.
During the period 9-14 September, the Tenth Army (Reichenau)
fought in two distinct combat groups in far-separated areas. The
left wing of the army suffered a check in its first efforts to capture
Warsaw, and then participated with varying fortune in the desperate
battles fought by the Eighth Army against the Polish forces that
were seeking to cut their way through to the capital; During these
days the right wing of the army was engaged seventy miles to the
south and won an annihilating victory at Radom, where four Polish
divisions were surrounded and captured. The operations of this
wing of von Reichenau's army furnish a most interesting example
of the German use of mechanized units. On 8 September, as already
noted, General Hoth's panzer corps had cut across the line of with-
drawal of the 3d, 12th, 19th, and 29th Polish Divisions at Radom and
Zwolen, barring their retreat across the Vistula. This interception
did not, however, insure the destruction of these units. The panzer
corps was not strong enough to force the surrender of over 60,000
men. Assistance was necessary. This was provided by the pursu-
ing German foot divisions, which were enacting the role of the direct-
pressure force in the pursuit. During the 9th and 10th, the encircle-
ment of the Polish divisions was completed, and these troops, after
futile efforts to break the ring, surrendered on the 12th. A few
stragglers alone succeeded in finding their way across the Vistula.
The action on the front of Reichenau's left wing did not progress
so favorably for the Germans. The efforts made by detachments of
Hoepner's panzer corps to capture Warsaw were repulsed, and be-
fore reinforcements could arrive in sufficient numbers to launch a
determined attack against the city, developments on the front of the
Eighth Army made it imperative to move all available troops from
the Tenth Army to reinforce the former.
On the evening of 8 September, the columns of the Eighth Army
(Blaskowitz) , after passing Lodz to the east and west, had reached
Ozorkow and Brzeziny. Lodz itself, according to the plan, was not
to be occupied until the 9th. The army commander hoped to seize
the line of the Bzura on the next day and thereby to carry out his
mission of protecting the left flank of the Tenth Army. Polish units
were known to be in and around Kutno and along the Bzura. These
forces, however, were gravely underestimated. The German high
command estimated the strength at five infantry divisions and two
cavalry brigades ; the actual strength was twelve infantry divisions
and two cavalry brigades. Over half of these units had not been
engaged. They outnumbered the Eighth Army by more than two
From the opening day of the campaign, General Blaskowitz had
carefully watched his left flank. He had echeloned the 30th Division
behind his left-flank corps. As events developed, this disposition
proved to be the army's salvation.
Early on the 9th, the Eighth Army took the offensive against the
line of the Bzura. Vague as was the situation on the army's front,
Blaskowitz was merely following the German military doctrine,
which is that in a doubtful situation the offensive is the best policy.
The initial attacks of the German Eighth Army were successful in
spite of heavy casualties. Soon, however, Polish strength asserted
itself. The forward progress of the Germans was stopped, and
Polish counterattacks began along the entire front. On the German
left, in the zone of the 30th Division, a crisis developed. Five Polish
divisions struck this unit in flank, cut off its advance guard, and
forced it to withdraw.
The situation was saved by three German counteractions. The,
Tenth Army diverted every available man and tank from the vicinity
of Warsaw to the zone of Blaskowitz's army. The Polish attacks
were stopped by these reinforcements. As a second measure, re-
serve divisions following closely on the heels of the Eighth Army
were rushed into action. Finally, strong bombardment elements of
the German Air Force were taken off their strategic missions and
launched against the Polish ground forces facing Blaskowitz. By
15 September, all danger to the Eighth Army had passed and the
Germans resumed the offensive.
The operations of the Fourth Army (von Kluge) during this
period consisted principally of marching. On the 8th, this army
was divided into two groups, one on each side of the Vistula. One
group, consisting only of foot divisions, moved southeastward in a
series of forced marches to join in the great battle raging between
Kutno and Lodz. By the 15th, this group was approaching the
former city and was preparing to assist the efforts of the Eighth and
Tenth Armies. By the evening of the same date, the daily advances
of the other group had placed it in front of the fortress of Modlin,
from which it effectively blocked the retreat to the north of the Polish
forces around Kutno.
By 8 September, the Third Army (von Kuechler) had forced the
fortified line of the Narew River between Pultusk and Rozan. Dur-
ing the succeeding days the army exploited this success and moved
against the rear communications of Warsaw. By the 12th, the
railroad lines leading from that city to Bialystok and Siedlce had
been cut. By the 14th, a line of investment opposite the capital city
had been occupied and its encirclement completed. One Polish divi-
sion had retreated in the direction of Siedlce, followed by elements
of the German Third Army.
The second major operation of the Third Army commenced on 9
September. On this day the strong group of divisions which had
assembled in the Lyck-Johannisburg area moved on Brest Litovsk.
The advance of this force was weakly opposed, and by the 14th it had
captured Brest Litovsk. Small Polish forces in the area were either
cut up or captured. Any possibility of a Polish stand east of War-
saw was ended by this maneuver.
During the encirclement of the Polish forces by the ground troops,
the German Air Force, as in the previous period, carried out a series
of large-scale bombardment operations designed to paralyze the
entire railroad net east of the Vistula and to prevent the transport
westward by rail of the reserve units known to be completing their
organization in eastern Poland. These, operations were interrupted
between the 11th and 14th of September by the diversion of sqoScP -
rons to the assistance of the hard-pressed Eighth Army north of
The Annihilation, 15-28 September (Map 6). — The final phase of
the campaign deals with the annihilation of the trapped Polish divi-
sions. It was during this period that Poland was invaded from the
east by Russian armies. However, this invasion did not have an
important effect on the final outcome of the campaign. At the time
the invasion began, Polish resistance had been completely broken
and all avenues of retreat had been blocked.
By the evening of 14 September, the center group of the Four-
teenth Army (List) had reached, with its advanced mechanized
elements, the outskirts of Lwow and had placed a thin outpost
line around three sides of the city. The right wing of the army was
in the vicinity of Sambor. The bulk of the mechanized forces, func-
tioning as the advance guard of the left wing, were across the
Lublin-Lwow highway between Tomaszow and Rawa Ruska.
The Polish forces in Galicia, already half demoralized by their
long retreat and much weakened by straggling, stood in two main
groups. The larger, comprising some five infantry divisions and a
mechanized brigade, was slowly withdrawing to the northeast and
by the 15th was along the San River to the southeast of Sandomir.
The smaller group, composed of two infantry divisions, lay between
Przemysl and Lwow. The further withdrawal of this latter force
to Lwow had been blocked by the German mechanized forces near
that city. Its line of retreat to Rumania had been barred by the
German detachments in Sambor.
On the 16th, serious fighting began between the left wing of
General List's army and the strong Polish Cracow Group around the
town of Bilgoraj. The Polish withdrawal had been .intercepted by
German mechanized troops in the region between Zamosc and Chelm,
and German infantry divisions had come up from the west and south-
west to join in the fighting. The battles around Bilgoraj, in which
units of von Reichenau's army participated, continued until the 20th.
On that day some 60,000 Poles laid down their arms, among them
the commanding general of the Polish groups of the south, General
Pekor. Remnants of this Polish force eluded the German net, only
to fall victims to the advancing Russian armies a few days later.
Of the Polish Przemysl Group, some 10,000 were captured near
Rawa Ruska on the 18th. Small detachments of this force escaped
to the southeast and, eluding the Russians, reached safety and intern-
ment in Rumania and Hungary.
On the 17th, scouting elements of the motorized reconnaissance
battalions of General List's army made contact with similar units
from General Kuechler's army near Wlodawa. This junction com-
pleted the first stage of the outer double envelopment of the Polish
forces. The outer net was still but a thin screen and might have
been penetrated by any Polish attack in force. The surrender of
the Polish troops at Warsaw, Kutno, and Bilgoraj made the outer
net unnecessary, but its existence shows the thorough indoctriniza-
tion of the German high command in the principles of annihilation
laid down years before by Count von Schlieffen.
The Tenth Army (Reichenau) , during this phase of the operations,
continued. to fight in two groups. While the left wing of the army
cooperated with General Blaskowitz's Eighth Army and a part of
General von Kluge's Fourth Army in forcing the surrender of the
Polish forces between Kutno and the Bzura, the right wing continued
its advance towards Lublin, an advance initiated on the 13th when
bridgeheads across the Vistula had been established near Pulawy and
Annopol. It was a part of this wing that assisted the troops under
List in forcing the surrender of the Polish units at Bilgoraj.
The concentric attack of the German armies on the Polish forces
surrounded near Kutno began on the 15th. The Tenth Army at-
tacked west from Warsaw. The Eighth Army pressed from the
south against the line of the Bzura. The right column of the Fourth
Army advanced southeast from Wloclawek on Kutno. Other forces
of the Fourth Army stood along the north bank of the Vistula from
Plock to Wysogrod, barring a Polish withdrawal across the river.
This concentric attack by large German forces rapidly broke all
Polish resistance. All efforts to break out of this ring of fire proved
futile. By the 17th, the Polish forces had been pressed together
into a ve*ry narrow area between the Vistula and the Bzura southwest
of Wysogrod. There, harassed on all sides by the ever-increasing
pressure of the encircling forces and bombed from the air by the
German Air Force, 170,000 Poles laid down their arms in one of the
greatest surrenders of a field army in all military history.
While this gigantic battle of annihilation was being brought to a
close west of Warsaw, units of the German Third and Fourth Armies
were drawing tight the lines of blockade around Warsaw and Modlin ;
and to the east, near Siedlce, other elements of the Third Army were
rounding up Polish forces seeking to escape to the southeast. In this
area, 12,000 officers and men of the Polish 1st Division were forced
The air operations during this phase were much less extensive
than in previous periods, but were nevertheless important. Bomb-
ing expeditions were carried out against Polish troop concentrations
and columns in the regions east of the Vistula. The airfields adjoin-
ing the Russian border were extensively bombed, and the last re-
maining Polish radio stations were destroyed. As already noted, the
German Air Force also played an important role in the last phase of
the Battle of the Bzura, bombing enemy troops and spreading the
demoralization that was fast seizing the Polish forces in this area.
The only Polish troops at large on 20 September in the German-
occupied portion of Poland were: the garrison of Warsaw; the
garrison of Modlin; the naval garrison of the Hela peninsula;
small forces in Lwow; and a considerable number of Polish units,
mostly reserve formations, in the area between Deblin and Lublin.
Lwow surrendered on 21 September. On 22 September, the
German forces in this region began a withdrawal to the San River in
accordance with an agreement with Russia. The naval garrison on
the Hela peninsula surrendered on 1 October.
Of particular interest during this final phase of the campaign is
the capture of Warsaw and its sister fortress, Modlin. On 22 Sep-
tember, Blaskowitz and von Kuechler were beseiging Warsaw from
their positions on the two sides of Vistula, while Strauss with a
special group was operating against Modlin. On this day, both
Blaskowitz and von Kuechler delivered a successful series of limited
attacks, drawing in their siege lines about the city.
Commencing on the 24th, an intense artillery and aerial bombard-
ment was loosed on the capital and continued unabated until the 27th.
It is reported that as a result of this bombardment about 20 per cent
of all the houses in Warsaw were destroyed and that about 60 per cent
received one or more hits.
On 25 September, a coordinated infantry attack was made against
the city. The following interesting account is an extract from the
report of an American officer who visited the field of battle immedi-
ately after the fall of Warsaw. It describes attacks tm an antiquated
fort line along the western outskirts of the city near the suburb of
Another interesting action 'was the attack of an infantry regi-
ment, reinforced with one regiment of light and one battalion of
medium artillery, against the southern part of Warsaw, through
the suburb' of Mokotow.
This attack was described in much detail by General Gallwitzer,
the regimental commander, who had been promoted to general in
recognition of his conduct of the attack. He took us over the
ground, largely on foot, and pointed out even individual houses
that had been stubbornly defended.
Mokotow, with an old fort lying about 1,500 yards west thereof,
was a completely fortified area. A deep ditch connected the town
with the fort. This ditch served as a tank obstacle to protect the
areas between the two against tank attacks, and also as a covered
route to transfer troops from one to the other.
A main road entered the town from the southwest, each side
flanked by separate villas constructed of stone and bricks. Toward
the center of the suburb the buildings became larger, up to four
stories high and fifty yards square, and included such buildings as
a hospital and apartment houses. Much of this construction was
new and of concrete.
The Poles had organized each and every building for defense.
Outside doors, as well as stairways, were barricaded from the
inside with sandbags. Holes were broken through the floors
and roof and communication maintained by means of ladders.
Where buildings had common walls, holes were broken through
on each floor. One of these houses was the dwelling of a Peruvian
Machine guns were so placed at street crossings that the inter-
secting streets could be swept with fire. Artillery was emplaced
at the ends of streets so that the guns could fire point-blank
down the street. Stone sidewalks were then torn up and used
to build barricades across the streets.' Streetcars were also used
for this purpose.
Riflemen in pairs were placed in rooms behind sandbags, well
back from windows. From such positions they could fire without
Artillery was placed in parks and open squares all through the
the city so that it was screened from observation from the front.
On 24 September, the German Air Force bombed all military ob-
jectives, first with explosives and then with incendiary bombs.
After a fifteen-minute artillery preparation, commencing at noon
on 25 September, the German regiment attacked with two bat-
talions in the front line. One battalion advanced astride the main
road, leading from the southwest, with the right battalion east
thereof. The approach led over cut grassland and potato patches,
and was, for 500 yards, quite easy until both battalions were met
by heavy well-aimed rifle fire from the edge of town. The fire
could not be returned effectively because it was impossible to ob-
serve from where it was coming. The attack suffered considerable
losses in continuing another 500 yards to the edge of the suburb
itself. There it was brought to a complete stop by the heavy flank-
ing fire coming from all directions from the houses.
In renewing the attack, the Germans either had to destroy
each building by artillery fire or carry on operations with engineers
and infantry against each house. After taking one, they had to
cover each window of the next house with fire and then break
through its walls. Several unsuccessful attempts were made with
infantry heavy weapons to silence a Polish field piece, which was
set up in strong earthworks so that it enfiladed a main street
and was breaking up the whole attack of the battalion. It was
finally necessary to bring up a 105-mm. gun to silence the field
piece and allow the attack to proceed.
The Germans sustained exceptionally heavy losses in this action
in spite of their strong artillery support. It shows again the
great defensive value of towns and villages when properly utilized.
Under great difficulties, the attack continued about one kilometer
farther into the town. At noon on the 27th, it was -discontinued
because of an armistice preceding the surrender of the city.
On 27 September, the garrison of Warsaw capitulated, and that
of Modlin, no doubt influenced by the fall of the capital, followed
suit. Forces in the area east of Deblin offered resistance until 5
October. The campaign in Poland was at an end.
Thus in ab.out four weeks one of Europe's great armies was en-
veloped, disorganized, and annihilated. Yet from this campaign the
major Allies profited but little. Military men, studying the con-
quests, condemned the Poles instead of recognizing German poten-
tialities. Certain lessons, which now seem apparent, went unheeded ;
and France continued to make only halfhearted preparations behind
her fortifications. Looking backward and commenting after the fact
is always easy. Many men have been able to find fault with Napo-
leon, but no man has approached his achievements. Nevertheless, it
is now apparent that certain lessons could have been learned from the
conquest of Poland. It might have been realized that the offensive
had again become the king of the battlefield; that Germany once
more had a powerful, well-trained army, and that it was capable of
turning the war into one of maneuver ; that modern weapons, more
than man power and fortifications, might be the proper index of a
nation's combat power.
The erroneous impression has arisen from the rapidity with which
it was concluded, and from the overwhelming success of the German
Army, that the campaign was little more than a maneuver which
failed to afford a real test of German.battle efficiency. This view
neglects the fact that the German casualties, as officially published,
were over 10,000 killed, 30,000 wounded, and 3,000 missing; When
it is remembered that the most of the casualties were incurred within
a period of eight days, the campaign in Poland can be recognized
as a major military operation in which the Polish Army offered a
stubborn resistance, and which required a major effort on the part
Although the Polish plan was faulty in its strategic conception,
the complete collapse of the defense was due not so much to poor
strategy and leadership as to the overwhelming superiority of the
Germans, who broke Polish resistance during the first four days of
the campaign and prevented the Poles from carrying into execution
their plan to make a final stand behind the Vistula. Further, this
remarkable success of the Germans was not due solely to the Air
Force and the mechanized troops, but must be ascribed to a field force
with a balanced organization and a balanced armament, executing a
plan under excellent leadership. Like the backfield of a football
* A number of these comments have been taken almost verbatim from material
prepared by the Military Intelligence Service of our War Department.
team, it was the Air Force and the mechanized troops that received
the publicity ; but, like the line, it was the German infantry that bore
the brunt of the attack.
It would be unfair at this time, with only incomplete evidence at
hand, to condemn too severely the strategy of the Polish high com-
mand. We do not know for certain whether it was the intention
to accept battle at the frontier or merely to fight a series of delaying
actions and then withdraw to the strong Narew- Vistula-San River
line. In either case, however, it would appear that the Poles are
open to criticism. For them to offer to meet the German Army in
open warfare, on equal terms, suggests that either the Polish intelli-
gence service had been seriously deficient, or that GHQ had made a
faulty estimate of the worth of the German Army. If it was the
real Polish plan merely to fight a series of delaying actions along
the frontier and then to withdraw to the Vistula, a very strong case
can still be made against the initial troop concentrations. Only one
division was held originally on or in rear of this final line, while 95
per cent of the entire Polish Army took post along or closely in rear
of the frontier. The dispositions actually adopted suggest that the
Polish war plan envisaged a cordon defense.
Of the fifty German divisions used on the Polish Front, ten were
mechanized, four were motorized, three were mountain, and thirty-
three were infantry divisions. These figures show that the extent
of the mechanization of the German Army has been greatly exag-
gerated. In some of the later campaigns the proportion of infantry
divisions was even greater. The Germans believe, and this belief
was justified in Poland, that no mechanization and motorization has
yet been able to give the same degree of tactical mobility and flexi-
bility on the field of battle that foot soldiers possess.
In general, the infantry divisions attacked on broad fronts, each
division within the corps being assigned a zone of action and an
objective. Within the division zones of action the advance was con-
ducted by reinforced regiments. These reinforced regiments (called
"march combat groups"*), operating almost independently, were
largely responsible for the rapidity of the German advance.
After the First World War, many officers of the German Army
believed that the infantry division as then constituted was too large
and unwieldly for open warfare, lacking sufficient strategic as well
as tactical mobility. Too many small divisions would complicate the
supply system ; so a compromise was arrived at by which the com-
paratively large infantry division was retained, but with an organ-
* Called "regimental combat teams" in our Army.
ization which permitted its division into three groups, each provided
organically with sufficient striking power to make it almost an in-
dependent command. The entire division could, of course, be as-
sembled for concerted action. While the trains were motorized, the
combat elements retained much of their horse-drawn transportation.
In the tactical employment of the German division, the march
combat group is retained until enemy resistance necessitates em-
ployment of the division as a whole, when all the attached troops
immediately revert to division control. This is particularly true of
the artillery, which is almost invariably employed under direct con-
trol of the artillery commander, once the division is committed to
German tactical doctrine and training stress the responsibility for
individual leadership and initiative of subordinate commanders.
Each combat unit is organized and armed to provide for both fire and
movement. In battle, appropriate objectives are assigned to each
unit, and subordinate troop leaders accomplish their individual tac-
tical missions with a minimum of interference from higher com-
manders. Written orders in the division are rare. It was to this
tactical doctrine and training that the extraordinary speed of the
German attack can largely be attributed. Again to quote from
Clausewitz : "Happy the army in which the untimely boldness fre-
quently manifests itself; it is an exuberant growth which shows &,
rich soil. Even foolhardiness, that is, boldness without an object,
is not to be despised ..."
No discussion of the German ground forces would be complete
without reference to the remarkable marching ability and superb
physical condition of the German soldier. An infantry division of
the II Corps, crossing the Corridor, marched 45 miles against enemy
resistance and forded the Vistula in a period of three days. Later
this same unit marched 31 miles per day for three successive days.
In contrast with their later use in succeeding campaigns, the em-
ployment of panzer divisions on the Polish Front was conservative.
As far as is known, in only two instances — in the Teschen area and
in the attack of the fortified line of Mlawa — were tanks used in a
coordinated attack with the infantry. It is not known whether
these supporting tank units were from armored divisions or from the
independent tank regiments that were available. Employing the
soft-spot tactics of von Hutier, the German infantry divisions located
weak spots and created gaps. The mechanized and motorized forces
were then sent through the gaps in the execution of what were for-
merly called "cavalry missions." They exploited the break-through
by attacking the flanks and rear of the Polish divisions, disrupting
their communications, preventing their taking up delaying positions,
and cutting off their retreat to a final defensive line. When on these
missions, the mechanized divisions would operate far in advance of
the infantry, at times as much as 30 or 40 miles in rear of the Polish
In the Fourteenth Army on the south and in von Reichenau's
Tenth Army, it is known that the mechanized and motorized divisions
were organized into corps consisting of one or two mechanized divi-
sions and a motorized division. Organically, the panzer division
contained sufficient reconnaissance and security troops to seize ter-
rain features along the route of advance, and sufficient infantry
and artillery to occupy and hold the terrain taken. In the tank
columns themselves, close artillery support was furnished by
the medium tanks, armed with either the 37-mm. or 75-mm. gun
and having the same maneuverability as the light tanks.
German tank units had enough organic transportation to make
them self-sufficient. Gasoline was supplied to combat units in five-
gallon tins. These containers, about two feet high and' cylindrical
in shape, were made of an extremely hard but light metal. Extra
containers were carried on the tanks and when empty were dropped
off along the road to be picked up by the trains. When the tank
units of the Tenth Army first arrived at Warsaw, they were com-
pletely cut off for several days, during which time they were supplied
by air, the gasoline containers being dropped from planes.
As already noted, the German Air Force contributed to both the
strategical and tactical success of German arms in Poland. The
Polish air arm was completely neutralized from the outset. After
a few days it was no longer a factor. Rail lines were interrupted
when and where the German high command desired. This con-
tinuous bombardment prevented the completion of Polish mobiliza-
tion. Telephone and telegraph lines were cut by bombing. Polish
military headquarters, which were thus forced to use radio, were
soon located and bombed. Civil as well as military control broke
down rapidly, owing to the destruction of rail and wire communica-
tions. During the entire campaign, air observation units provided
the German Army with as complete information of its own and enemy
troops as could be expected. Special airplanes for liaison work in
friendly territory performed valuable service by disseminating in-
formation and orders to German troops. The use of dive-bomber
units on the field of battle against Polish reserves and the extensive
employment of bombardment squadrons against retreating Polish
columns contributed materially to the final result. The integration
of the Air Force into the combined German military effort was so
complete that its operations cannot be identified as decisive, but
rather as indispensable in hastening the ultimate issue of battle.
From the German viewpoint, a most important result of the Polish
campaign was that they learned that their organization, armament,
and tactical doctrine were correct. Especially was this true for the
mechanized division, which received a thorough test. The First
World War had indicated the tremendous striking force of an
armored vehicle. The Spanish Civil War had demonstrated the ne-
cessity for heavier tanks, to be used in mass. The invasion of
Austria and Czechoslovakia had solved the technical problems of
supply and repair. The Polish campaign showed that the organiza-
tion of the armored division was satisfactory, and that these divisions
were capable of independent action. Now the stage was set for the
next act, the break-through at Sedan.
THE CAMPAIGN IN POLAND, 1939
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R U S S I A
THE CAMPAIGN IN POLAND, 1939(2)
Dispositions of Opposing Forces
31 August, 1939, and German Plan
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THE CAMPAIGN IN PGLAND,l939 f v 3
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THE CAMPAIGN IN POLAND, 1939(4
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THE CAMPAIGN IN POLAND
Situation at Dark, 14 September, 1939
SCALE OF MILES
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THE CAMPAIGN IN P0LAND,l939l 6
Situation at Dark, 20 September, 1939
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DATE DUE (OA Pom 28-30)
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MAIN 940.542 U575c
The Campaign In Poland, 1939.
United States. Military Academy, West Po
Combined Arms Research Library
Fort Leavenworth, KS
3 1695 00083 665
U. S. Military Academy, West Point.
Dept. of Military Art and Engineering.
The campaign in Poland, 1939.